Curfew imposed in Ecuador as indigenous groups lead violent anti-austerity protests

Wednesday 9th October 2019 11:45 BST

Violent protests against austerity measures have prompted the country's president to move his administration out of the capital, Quito.

The restrictions were put in place from 8pm to 5am each night around key state installations and government buildings as well as airports and oil refineries, which have become a target for protests over a sharp rise in fuel prices after ministers ended subsidies.

Earlier, protesters broke through police barriers, forcing their way into the National Assembly in Quito as demonstrations against the government's austerity measures turned increasingly violent.

The congress building was empty and police fired tear gas, forcing them to retreat.

President Lenin Moreno has temporarily moved government operations from the capital Quito to the port city of Guayaquil.

The disturbances, which started last week, began with transport workers before spreading to students and then to indigenous peoples.

Indigenous protesters occupied two water treatment plants in the city of Ambato, south of the capital, raising concern about supply to residents, according to municipal authorities.

A state of emergency was declared last week in response to the strife, allowing the government to curb some civil liberties as it tries to restore order.

The South American country of 17 million people has been paralysed by a lack of public transport and blockaded roads that are taking a toll on an already vulnerable economy.

As many as 165,000 barrels of oil, or nearly one-third of total production, could be lost each day if the unrest continues, state oil company, Petroecuador, warned.

The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, the country's biggest indigenous group, accused Mr Moreno's government of failing to improve the welfare of Ecuador's "most vulnerable" people.

The group made similar complaints about his predecessor, Rafael Correa, and indigenous protesters played a major role in the 2005 resignation of then-president, Lucio Gutierrez.

"We have shown throughout Ecuador's history that indigenous peoples have the power to shut down the country when our rights are put at risk and power is abused," indigenous groups said in a statement.

Responding to the crisis, the UK has updated its travel advice for Ecuador.

It said: "Protests across Ecuador since October 3 (have) caused nationwide disruption, with demonstrations and road blockages in many provinces," adding that another major demonstration is planned for Wednesday.

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